Mining Trvia

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Mining Trivia


The first coal mine in America was opened in Virginia, in the Appalachian bituminous field, during the 1750s; the mining of anthracite began in the late 1700s. Extensive mining in the United States commenced about 1820; until 1854 more than half of all the coal that was produced in the U.S. was Pennsylvania anthracite. (“Mining,” Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia Microsoft Corporation)

The first gathering arm loader was shipped to Pittsburgh Coal Company’s Sommer Number 2 Mine on September 27, 1916.  Joe Joy invented and applied for a patent for this gathering arm loader, and continued to work on its testing and development underground. He was awarded a patent, in his name, for the machine in 1919. Around 1930 Joe Joy helped to create nine new cutting machines along with the development of a “saw loader”, which was basically a primitive continuous miner.

Joseph F. Joy died in February of 1957. He accumulated an impressive 190 patents during his career. His major inventions were recognized as milestones in the history of underground mining mechanization. He had pioneered new concepts in hydraulics, modern control and power circuits, trackless mining equipment, efficient gearing and seal designs as well as dozens of other “firsts” in the industry. His contributions changed forever the way minerals are mined.

The World’s first gasoline-powered
excavator was this wheel-mounted
P&H dragline in 1919.


The first gold rush in the United States occurred a few years after the discovery, in 1799, of a hunk of “heavy yellow’ metal in or along Little Meadow Creek in Cabarrus County, North Carolina, by Conrad John Reed, aged 12. It was not, however, until 1802, three years after his son had found the “heavy yellow rock,” that Reed learned that it was gold. The rock, described as being the size of a small smoothing iron and weighing about 17 pounds, had been used as a doorstop in the Reed home. Later a Fayetteville jeweler gave Reed $3.50 for the nugget, worth thousands.

A number of nuggets and a good quantity of dust were recovered in the auriferous sands along the stream. In 1803 there was wild excitement when a slave recovered a lump of gold weighing 28 pounds from a place on the northwest side of the “lake” (a wide place in the Little Meadow Creek).

On January 24, 1848 James W. Marshall was building a sawmill for Captain John Sutter, using water from the South Fork of the American River. He noticed several flakes of metal in the tailrace water and recognized them to be gold. Though he tried to keep it a secret, the word spread quickly, and triggered the California Gold Rush of 1849.

The largest gold nugget found in the U.S. to date, weighed 195 pounds; it came from California.

Did you know Gold may have been discovered in the Black Hills of   South Dakota 15 years before the California Gold Rush?  There are documents that go back as early as 1834.  A tablet was found that states:  “Came to these hills in 1833 seven of us DeLacompt, Ezra Kind, G.W.Wood, T.Brown, R.Kent, Wm. King, Indian Crow, all died but me Ezra Kind Killed by Ind behind high hill Got our gold dust June 1834.”  On the reverse side was scratched:  “Got all the gold we could carry our ponies all got by the Indians I have lost my gun and nothing to eat The Indians hunting me.” 

The largest gold mine in the U.S. is the Homestake Mining Company in Lead, South Dakota.

The Witwatersrand Basin in South Africa, is by far the world’s largest gold deposit, having yielded about 50 000 tons of the precious metal, or a third of all the gold ever mined on Earth. The gold was transported and deposited in conglomerate reefs by high-energy river systems about 2750 million years ago.


In 1866, a boy unknowingly discovered the first diamond in South Africa.  This pebble, picked up along the shores of the banks of the Orange River, was determined to be a 21 carat rough yellow diamond, and heralded the beginning of the great Diamond Rush.  The Eureka diamond, as it was named, was cut into a 10.73 carat brilliant gem.

In 1905 the largest gem-quality diamond ever discovered was removed from the Premier Mine in South Africa.  It weighed 3,106 carats and was named the Cullinan in honor of Sir Thomas Cullinan, who originally opened the mine.  This stone still remains the largest diamond ever found.

The Cullinan I, known as The Great Star of Africa, is the largest cut diamond in the world; it is a 530.20 carat pear  –  shaped stone set in the Sovereign’s Royal Scepter as part of the Crown Jewels displayed in the Tower of London.

Cullinan II, known as The Lesser Star of Africa, the world’s second largest cut diamond, is a 317.40 carat square brilliant-cut gem mounted in the Imperial State Crown, also part of the Crown Jewels.

Did you know that Diamond-studded rotary bits are used to drill oil wells and bore tunnels in solid rock? Many low – grade diamonds are crushed to dust, sorted by grain size through special sieves, and used as abrasive powder. Depending on the kind of abrasion or grinding needed, the powder is either sintered into metal disks, formed in carbide grinding wheels, pressed into metal, or mixed in an oil paste. The powder is also used to cut and polish gems. Diamond -tipped glass cutters, glass etching pencils, and other similar tools find widespread use. Very thin wire is formed by pulling thick wire through a graduated series of diamonds with tiny holes drilled through them. Diamonds for industrial purposes have been synthesized since the 1950 s using high temperature, high-pressure techniques, and since the 1960 s using shock-wave techniques.